West Sikkim Travelogue - Yuksom

Yuksom is a small village in West Sikkim in the Geyzing subdivision. The history of Yuksom dates back to 1642 AD when it was established as the first capital of ancient Sikkim by Phuntsog Namgyal. Phuntsog Namgyal was the first Chogyal or King of Sikkim. The word Yuksom in Tibetan means, ‘the meeting place of the three wise monks’. Three monks or Lamas had come from Tibet who selected the first king of Sikkim and gave him the title Chogyal.

Our trip to Yuksom was a half day trip. We started in the morning after having breakfast at the Lotus Bakery (I have decided to dedicate a separate post for this place). Our first stop was at Rimbi Rock Garden. The trail leading to the main part of the garden was completely destroyed and wiped out. The driver said it was the work of a massive flash flood that had taken place around last October.

After spending some time there, the car started again. It was a bright sunny morning with a slight chill in the air. We were both feeling refreshed and animated. Although I cannot say I was feeling very happy, as it was our last day of the trip. Tomorrow we were heading back to Calcutta. And from the day after tomorrow our mundane daily life would resume its course. I was lost in my own world when a muffled sound of rushing water broke my chain of thoughts. Just after a sharp bend the car stopped and we found ourselves looking at Kanchenjunga falls in all her glory. The beauty and grandeur of Kanchenjunga falls was no match to the other falls we had seen so far in the past three days. A vast white torrent of water was rushing downward with a massive force producing a continuous deafening sound.

Our driver said this stream of water was coming directly from Mt. Kanchenjunga
The surrounding area of the falls looked quite animated with several roadside stalls selling snacks and beverage. A guy from a small costume stall offered us to pose in Bakhu or traditional Sikkimese dress. I was looking like a fat Sikkimese woman with a thick layer of sweater under my Bakhu. Every food stall was selling freshly cooked boiled sprouts with onions, tomatoes and spices. We shared a plate. It was quite delicious.
On our way we stopped at a bend of the road; a very old guy was selling freshly plucked guavas and oranges on the roadside. His wife was standing beside him carrying a Thunche (basket). Their old wrinkled faces were curved with warm smile when we requested them to pose for pictures with us.

We reached Yuksom at around 12 noon. Yuksom is a small village situated at the elevation of 1780 m. It is the base camp to Mt. Kanchenjunga as the trekking route starts from here. We spotted a few mountain horses that were used to carry resources for the trekkers. The car took us to the helipad ground from where the entire valley could be seen.

Yuksom is also important to the Buddhist pilgrims because of Norbugang chorten, Dubdi monastery and Tashiding monastery are situated here. Unfortunately I had not done much research on Yuksom before coming and I was totally oblivious of the existence of the two very important monasteries. And the driver did not tell us either. It’s pretty obvious if I say that I feel furious every time I remember this.

The Coronation Throne
Norbugang Chorten
The history of Yuksom is as interesting as of any part of Sikkim and Tibet. In 1641, Lama Lutsun Chembo along with two other Lamas named Sempa Chembo and Rinzing Chembo travelled from Tibet to Sikkim, formerly known as Denzong or the hidden country. Their objective was to firm the foothold of Tibet in Sikkim as well as spreading Buddhism there. They first set foot at Norbugang, the ancient name of Yuksom as this place was considered blessed with their most revered saint, Guru Padma Sambhava. According to Guru Padma Sambhava’s prediction, they were in pursuit of a fourth person who was needed to fulfill their sacred mission. Legend says that, they found Phuntsog Namgyal near Gangtok churning milk from a cow. Phuntsog offered the three Lamas shelter and food. Overwhelmed by his generosity they decided him to be the Chosen One who was entitled to be the first Chogyal of Sikkim. Phuntsog Namgyal's coronation took place on a stone throne in front of the Norbugang Chorten which is called the Coronation Throne of Norbugang in present day. The Namgyal dynasty ruled Sikkim for 333 years till the annexation of Sikkim took place in 1975. The holy mission of the three wise Lamas was accomplished and the Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism ultimately became the state religion of Sikkim.
The Chorten and its vicinity were completely deserted when we entered. Thankfully most part of Sikkim is still virgin and has not yet become commercialized and vandalized by jackass Indian tourists who don’t know how to maintain the sanctity of a place of historical or of religious importance. The courtyard of the Chorten was surrounded by pine trees canopying the area. Behind the remains of the stone pedestal where the coronation had taken place was a humongous tree that could be as old as the place itself.


The village marketplace
One of my friends never had had Thukpa before and she was eating the driver’s head all the way telling him that she wanted to have Thukpa in lunch. As I mentioned earlier that the driver exploited our lack of knowledge and did not care to take us to the other monasteries, he took us straight to a small restaurant run by some North Indian (!) guy for lunch. I wanted to go to the Sikkimese shop adjacent to it, but my friends had already placed order. Honestly I was not happy eating a traditional Tibetan dish made by some guy from Rajasthan, but I had no choice. The chicken Thukpa looked and tasted more Marwari than Sikkimese.

My friends wanted to rest after returning to the hotel. But my objective was to pay a visit to the Sangachoeling monastery. It was our last day in Sikkim and I did not want to waste a moment of it sitting idly in the hotel room. However the monastery situated at the end of a long and steep trek leading to a hilltop that would take at least an hour to reach. It was already getting dark and the trek was through a deserted woods. We came back from the midway disheartened. I was sad and my friend kept scolding me for not listening to her ‘good’ advice earlier.

Next morning we started early, by 8 am. Although our flight was at 2 in the afternoon, we did not want to take risk as it was long route and we already knew the condition of road at Jorethang. When I started the journey, I had left home with no expectation and rather with a foreboding feeling. But now I was going back home with a bag full of memories and moments that might never happen again in my life. When it comes to Sikkim, it was a love at first sight on the first trip which has become unrequited after the second. I threw one last glance at Kanchenjunga dazzling under the bright sunlight and realized there’s a throbbing lump came up in my throat that would soon betray my vision. I bade adieu to her with a promise of coming back again and got in the car. The city of joy awaited me.
                                                                                                                           (The end)